We can unanimously agree that a headful of gorgeous ringlets, regardless of shape and size, are beautiful, right? Besides, individuality is what makes beauty so much fun. While admittedly difficult at times, the curly hair you’re born with can be easier to manage than you think. Whether you have a Solange-like mane or longer waves like Lorde’s, embracing your hair’s texture is the number one rule when it comes to curls. However, there is a set of more universal, one-size-fits-most dos that everyone with kinks and coils should abide by. Working with, not against, your curl pattern is the key to maintaining lush locks, so put down the hair straightener and cement-like pomades because we’ve enlisted the pros for some curly hair 101.
Keep scrolling to read about the 10 commandments of curly hair.
Style Curls When They're Wet
“I like to naturally ‘wet-set’ curly hair—it’s the best and easiest way to get bounce and volume and a natural-looking wave or curl pattern,” says Nick Arrojo, owner and founder of Arrojo NYC. “You need a two-product cocktail, although the products differ depending on hair density. If your hair is fine, use a body-building volume foam first and then a lightweight curl enhancer. If your hair is medium to thick or slightly coarse, cocktail curl definer with curl control. Apply products from roots to ends, and comb hair with a wide-tooth comb to undo any knots in your hair and aid even distribution of the products, ensuring curls get maximum performance benefits,” he explains.
Once products are set in place, Nick stresses the importance of the “cup, squeeze, scrunch” method. “In small sections from the underneath up, gently cup, scrunch, and squeeze curls. Don’t be tempted to freely run your fingers through hair—this disturbs curls, which creates frizz. Just remember: Cup, squeeze, scrunch.”
Nick says to continue this styling method until hair dries, and then gently tousle at the roots to soften curls. “Don’t stress about making curls too perfect; curls are meant to fall imperfectly; it’s part of their charm. Enjoy the individuality and freedom of textured tresses,” he adds.
Air-Drying Hair Is Always a Good Idea
Says hairstylist Caile Noble, “Friction causes frizz, so it all begins with the drying process, and the towel you’re using may be your main problem.” His go-to is the top-rated Aquis hair towel. “It is designed specifically for hair, and the [microfiber] fabric eliminates friction caused by normal cotton towels. This towel is a life changer when eliminating frizz along with absorbing enough moisture to cut your drying time in half,” he raves.
“Having curly hair myself, I have found that air-drying is the best way to go,” hairstylist Matthew Monzon adds, but he does lightly towel-dry hair. “Don’t be rough with the towel against the hair,” he says, because that will also contribute to even more frizz. “The best advice I can give to someone with curly hair is that air-drying is best. The less you touch your hair while it is drying, the better. The more the hair gets handled, the more chance of frizz.”
Use Moisturizing Products as Much as Possible
A junior stylist and curly-hair expert at Julien Farel Salon NYC, Amanda Troisi, says that the right products will make all the difference, and it starts with your shampoo. “Curly hair is like a fingerprint, and not one curl pattern is alike. Due to its delicate texture, curls require constant moisture and hydration. Leave-in conditioners, moisturizing hair treatments, hair masks, and water are what they need.”
Troisi’s routine includes the Julien Farel De-Frizz Restore treatment, which is incredibly rich in benefits. “I start by wetting my hair and adding it starting at my ends and working my way to the roots. It has grape-seed, sweet almond, and jojoba oils to nourish and strengthen hair while controlling unruly texture. It’s okay to add this product to your roots even though it is a conditioning treatment for the scalp,” she explains.
Always Use a Comb
Tim Abney, director of education at Kevin Murphy, says a simple comb is a major must to keep frizz at bay and curl pattern intact. “Make sure to use a wide-tooth comb to help manage your curls,” he says. “We recommend it because when people use their fingers to sweep through their hair, they aren’t as careful and end up tearing the curl structure apart, contributing to frizz.”
Another good thing about using a wide-tooth comb is that it helps evenly distribute styling products. “When people style with their hands, they most often get most of the product in one concentrated area, and the complete style suffers. Using the comb guarantees much better, even product distribution while maintaining the natural texture of your hair and encourages your curls to remain intact throughout the styling process,” he adds.
Coconut Oil Is Your Best Friend
“I am from Brazil," where most of the population has curly hair, says hairstylist Claudio Belizario. “I have five sisters, all with curly hair, and I know how to maintain and keep it looking healthy. Sun, humidity, and the wind are very bad for curly hair.”
Before washing your hair, Belizario recommends the holy grail of oils, coconut oil, to repair damage and protect from the elements. “Use a coconut oil, especially on the ends. Leave in for a minimum of 30 minutes (never in direct sunlight, as the oil fries your hair). I recommend using a towel or covering the hair with a plastic cap to penetrate it well. The coconut oil is going to give back all the natural essentials that were lost when using a hair dryer, color, or even chemical treatment,” he says.
Noble adds, “Replace your go-to hair serum with raw coconut oil. This natural ingredient won’t only eliminate frizz but [will] actually heal your hair over time, making it less dry for healthy-looking hair.”
Embrace the Curling Iron
“Curling irons are a great way to achieve or enhance the natural texture and curl pattern,” says Nicole Perteet, stylist at Marie Robinson Salon. “I would recommend the BaByliss Pro Nano or Ceramic line of curling irons. They glide through the hair and provide beautiful shine and bounce. For more curl, use a one-inch curling iron. For a wavy look, I recommend a 1 1/4–inch curling iron.” She also recommends sparingly using hair spray post-styling. “Because curly hair tends to be dry, I only recommend hair spray if you need to contain flyaways on the hair part and the hairline.”
Avoid Over-Washing Your Hair
“Unless your hair is baby-fine, you should not be washing it more than two to three times a week; the drier the hair is, the longer you can go. Of course, you can wet it daily, but no shampoo whatsoever—the natural oils will help keep the curls more controlled,” says celebrity hairstylist Harry Josh.
Bust Out the Hair Diffuser From Time to Time
Hairstylist Cash Lawless says that using a diffuser to style hair for a voluminous look is great for “the wild and fun girl who doesn’t need her curls to be perfect.” After applying a cream-based mousse (this prevents the crunch-curl effect), he says, “Diffuse the hair by leaning to one side, lifting the diffuser all of the way to the scalp, and then sliding the diffuser from the bottom of the hairline near your ear and nape, and slide it all of the way to the top of your crown. This lifts and stretches the root creating masses of volume.”
Condition Before You Shampoo for Best Results
“Before shampooing,” Amanda Ambroise, stylist at Ted Gibson Salon, says, “apply conditioner and detangle with a wide-tooth comb. The conditioner will help to detangle while also prepping your locks for cleansing.” Nai’vasha Johnson, hairdresser at Ted Gibson Salon, adds, “Pre-pooing helps aid in the restoration and moisture retention to curly hair while adding a beautiful shine.”
Once a week, hairstylist David Babaii advises to use your mask and let it sink into the cuticle for a deep-conditioning treatment. “Try to do a mask once a week; just don’t forget to rinse. It’s extremely important. Once the product is in the cuticle, you want to make sure you hydrate, but it won’t help to leave it after washing. The more you leave on, the worse [it works]. Product buildup is the number one cause of breakage for hair,” he says.
Only Use Silk or Satin Pillowcases (Seriously)
Silk or satin pillowcases may be essential for overnight hair care. Lawless says “This is obvious but often overlooked when you are trying to get those curls to last longer.”
Monzon adds, “If you have a lot of hair, the time it takes to air dry is longer. That is why it can be beneficial to sleep with hair in a braid or a bun on a satin pillowcase.”